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Lapo Elkann is the grandson of the late Gianni Agnelli and brother of FCA Chairman John Elkann.

Italian fashion designer and industrial heir Lapo Elkann has been arrested by New York police for allegedly faking his own kidnapping.

The 39-year-old reportedly ran out of money, according to initial news reports, possibly due to involvement with an escort. Authorities were called to a housing complex on New York’s East Side after being told Elkann was being held against his will. They subsequently determined the claim was false.

Lapo Elkann is the brother of John Elkann, currently the chairman of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. He is the grandson of the late Giovanni Agnelli, who turned his family’s holdings into one of Italy’s most powerful industrial enterprises after World War II. That included Fiat SpA, the automaker that took control of Chrysler after the American firm’s 2010 bankruptcy.

Known as a fashion icon and entrepreneur – he runs several companies, including a manufacturer of high-end eyewear – Lapo Elkann has found himself in hot water a number of times over the years. Perhaps the most troubling setback occurred in 2005 when he overdosed on drugs in the apartment of a transsexual prostitute and was left in a coma.

He had been a marketing executive with Fiat but left the family company after that well-publicized incident in which he nearly died.

Elkann, now head of a designer eyewear company, nearly died of a drug overdose in 2005.

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While Elkann no longer works directly with Fiat, he has worked with Italian design and fashion house Gucci on several special edition products for the automaker.

In 2007, he launched his sunglass company, Italia Independent. The firm was listed on the Milan stock exchange in 2013. Its shares fell sharply after word of the arrest was released.

With a reputation for being an international playboy, Elkann has also retained an interest in the auto industry. His firm, Garage Italia Customs, customizes high-end exotic automobiles, as well as private aircraft. It is based in a historic garage in Milan’s Piazzale Accursio.

His personality is said to stand in sharp contrast to serious-minded brother John Elkann, who serves not only as chairman of Fiat Chrysler but also as CEO of Exor, an Italian investment fund that owns about 30% of Fiat Chrysler.

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According to a report in the New York Post, Elkann ran out of cash after spending two days with an escort and then claiming he would be hurt unless a $10,000 ransom would be paid. Authorities in New York report Lapo Elkann called police for help claiming his was being held against his will. Police entered an apartment on East 28th Street and initial took a 29-year-old man into custody, but charges of grand larceny were subsequently dropped.

Police have charged the Italian entrepreneur with filing a false report and released him pending trial in January.

Elkann’s publicist, Alessia Margiotta Broglio, told by e-mail that she had “Nothing to add or to comment” on the arrest.

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